📅 January 21, 2015
Over time, I have helped others with their computer issues and repaired and upgraded a number of Linux and Windows systems. As a result, I have noticed an interesting supposition: Linux has the potential to put you out of the computer repair business.
“How can this be?” you might ask?
Allow me to explain…
First of all, there is no such thing as the perfect operating system. Whether it be Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, DOS, Android, Solaris, UNIX, or any other, problems will happen. However, some operating systems are more problematic than others. Ironically, the more problematic and less stable an operating system is, the more business it will generate in the computer repair industry due to its inherent need for attention.
It’s a paradox:
Less stable/More problems = More business/More money from repairs (Unhappy user = Happy repairman)
More stable/Fewer problems = Less business/Less money from repairs (Happy user = Unhappy repairman)
(This is assuming that you charge money for your services to fix a computer, but it still costs time.)
Second, I am referring to everyday desktop users and desktop operating systems. You know, Mr. Average Joe who thinks the Internet Explorer icon is the “button for the Internet.” Poor thing. But Mr. Joe is a great customer for the computer repair technician due to his repeated problems that become a constant source of income for the repairman.
Linux vs. Windows
Specifically, I am talking about the Linux and Windows operating systems and how they compare to each other regarding their maintenance. I have been wrestling with Windows since the days of DOS, and every single version of Windows — and I mean EVERY single version from Windows 3.1 to Windows 8.1 — has been a frustrating experience in aggravation and repeated annoyances that are never fixed (and if fixed, only to be replaced with new annoyances).
Windows breaks easily, and even performing a simple task, such as installing a scanner driver, might cause something else not to work. For example, the printer might become unresponsive due to a conflict with the new scanner driver. Fixing the printer driver then corrupts the graphics display, which then limits the user to a recovery console, which fails to fully recover the system, which leads to data loss, which then requires another computer to perform data recovery, which fails to recover vital data, and on and on. This always led me to ask, “There must be something better out there!”
Fixing Windows is like trying to replace a generic domino somewhere within of a lengthy 800,000 domino chain — you pray no other domino topples over in your attempt to fix the original issue. On top of that, there are other issues to cope with: Viruses. Browser hijacking. NTFS filesystem failure. Hardware incompatibility. Missing desktop icons. Lost emails. The list goes on. Windows is a repairman’s cash cow.
Honestly, I think Windows was intentionally designed with tiny, mischievous garden gnomes inside its inner workings whose sole purpose is to make sure something breaks for no reason whatsoever just to give somebody a job. Never have I seen a more inconsistent, frustrating piece of software that appears to be fundamentally insecure and broken by design. It is no wonder there is such a demand for Windows computer repair (aside from the ubiquity of Windows).
And people pay for this software.
Linux used to be frustrating too (VERY frustrating), but it has become increasingly user-friendly since Ubuntu 9, and today, it is far easier to install, use, and maintain than any version of Windows I have seen. Strangely, this reliability is what can diminish a computer technician’s repair business.
I have helped both Linux users and Windows users with their software and hardware issues, and I have noticed two recurring situations without fail:
Windows requires incessant hand-holding. Once a problem is fixed, the same user will ask for help on another matter because something else breaks. Often, quite soon. The DVD-ROM drive no longer works. As it turns out, the registry needed editing due to an inadvertent registry change resulting from a recent software installation. A week later, the same user complains that Internet Explorer always opens to a web site advertising weight loss pills. Once that is fixed, the user now says his printer no longer works since he connected a brand new flatbed scanner.
Windows issues continue indefinitely, but this means repeat business. And if you charge for each repair…Hmm, I think I’ll purchase a new Ferrari today. (Or purchase a high-end, whiz-bang computer on which to run Linux.)
Linux is an entirely different kitty cat. After the showing the user the initial Linux introduction and how to use the system, he usually picks up the system on his own because most desktop environments feature a logical design. There is no need to say something silly like, “To shutdown the system, go to the Start menu.” (I never understood that contradiction either.)
Two, three, four weeks might pass and then the user will have a reasonable question such as, “How do I open Microsoft Word?” After explaining that Word does not exist on Linux (no need to confuse him with wine and VirtualBox), he then discovers LibreOffice and AbiWord.
Then, a real problem occurs. A piece of hardware does not work or the display boots to a GRUB prompt. This needs real help. Once fixed, months elapse without hearing anything from the user, so I follow up.
Q. “How is your system working for you? Have you had any other issues that you need help with?”
A. “It’s working great! I have not had any problems since you installed this Linux stuff. I no longer need your help. Thanks and farewell.”
And that’s it. The former Windows crybaby mounts his Linux horse and rides off into the sunset never to be seen or heard from again.
Truly, when Linux is involved, I rarely hear from the same user again regarding computer repair questions. Other questions, yes, but not service repair. Whenever I install Linux and show people how to use it, they seldom encounter problems beyond the typical questions that new Linux users have. When an unfamiliar problem does occur, such as booting to a GRUB prompt or a failed X server, Linux runs fine once resolved.
There is also a secondary point. Linux users tend to be highly intelligent and technically gifted, so they gradually learn to repair their own systems over time. This is an added nail in Linux computer repair coffin. After all, why visit the repairman when you can fix it yourself for free and learn something in the process?
I have witnessed this contrast firsthand every single time. Windows requires constant hardware and software maintenance and user hand-holding, but Linux does not. So, this lead to the thought: What would the computer repair industry be like if the majority of people used Linux instead of Windows? Would Linux generate enough repair business so you could buy that new Ferrari?
“I still don’t understand Linux vs. Windows issues. All I know is Windows, and it runs fine for me. Please elaborate.”
Okay. Think of Linux as that well-behaved toddler that every babysitter enjoys taking care of. Give him some toys, and he plays quietly for hours in blissful contentment. Never makes a fuss. Never cries. Never makes a sound beyond “Vrooooom!” and “Choo! Choo!” Never needs attention. Diaper never needs changing. Obeys every instruction without whining. In fact, after a while, you would become concerned that he is still alive, but once you check in on him, there he is where you left him — happily playing toys by himself in solitary contentment. You cannot help but admire the parents and their child-rearing skills.
Now, Windows. Windows is that noisy brat throwing a temper-tandrum in aisle 5 of the supermarket (where the cheap, plastic toys are). Hands clenched, he is stomping his feet and screaming at the top of his lungs as tears flood down his red, snot-filled face because his mommy told him “No.” His disturbance drives all other shoppers to opposite ends of the store, and the manager turns the volume of the elevator music up three notches. You cannot help but roll your eyes in disgust and think, “Ug! What were his parents smoking when they brought something like that into this world?”
“I still don’t get it.”
Here is another analogy. Think of Linux as the late 1940s/early 1950s refrigerator that was built to endure generations of usage. It has been running reliably for the past 40 years and, aside from minor repairs and maintenance, it continues to keep your deli meat chilled like an Alaskan igloo. Solid and reliable, they simply do not build them like that anymore. Any repairs are few and far between.
Windows (any version) is the equivalent of a modern refrigerator (complete with a talking ice maker) that breaks down immediately after the warranty expires. This prompts a call to the repairman, who fixes it and charges you a noticeably sizable fee. A month later, something else breaks down, and you call the repairman again. Another repair, another bill. Three months later, the original problem returns, and you invite the repairman to stay for Thanksgiving dinner because you feel like he belongs in your family by now.
While we might all have a unique story to tell, this is what the Linux vs. Windows repair world has been like for me. Consider each repair a source of income and compare. Which system do you think provides the most money from repairs?
This makes Linux perfect for end users like us who desire systems with minimal frustration, but not for those whose income partly depends upon other peoples’ computer problems. If users ever catch on to the efficiency, reliability, and low level of maintenance of today’s Linux distributions, then Linux would cause a huge dent in the Windows market share, and people might lose money. This is probably one of the best kept secrets of the computer world.
Certainly, Linux is not a panacea. Switching to Linux will not eradicate every single computer issue because Linux possesses its own quirks and issues. However, repeated money-making repairs are diminished when compared to Windows.
Without real-life proof beyond what I have seen for myself, I think computer repair technicians would have less repeat business when fixing Linux systems than when fixing Windows systems. New Linux users might appear, but not repeat customers needing computer service. Once Linux is fixed, it tends to stayed fixed. And if it’s not broken, why fix it?
Just something to think about.